The new HotHouse attenuates the previous iterations of this iconic cultural center that was first located in Wicker Park (1987-1995) and then in downtown Chicago until early 2007.
HotHouse was an institution that fundamentally changed the paradigm of community-based cultural centers in Chicago. HotHouse primarily showcased artists who were working in non-commercial genres, whose work was experimental, or from populations who were under-recognized and disenfranchised by either other arts institutions or the commercial marketplace. Each year, HotHouse hosted over 500 multi-arts programs that attracted 70,000 people. By 2006, HotHouse had evolved into a $2M organization employing 45 people and had become one of the country’s most well regarded centers for international culture.
As one of the hallmarks of the popularity of HotHouse was its fixture as a venue for public interaction among various and disparate communities, when the HotHouse space on Balbo closed, a void was created with regard to the kind of all-purpose community space and the kinds of international cultural exchanges it had facilitated. This void has largely remained unfulfilled and locally multiple cohorts of grassroots activists, artists, and ad-hoc community groups are seeking to purchase a permanent site to collectively replace the kind of comprehensive resources HotHouse had extended.
The vision for the new HotHouse seeks to build upon the founder, Marguerite Horberg’s thirty years of experience building iconic and vernacular spaces for culture and fostering international exchange. It seeks to catalyze urban development in an underdeveloped part of the city and harness creative re-use materials and sustainable practices to transform vacant lots and neglected properties into a sanctuary for progressive culture.
The new HotHouse will include a performing arts center, film screening room, restaurant, artist’s residence, office space, bodega, and green space.
From 1987-2007, HotHouse maintained two cultural centers where it presented its award-winning programs. During this era, nearly a fourth of HotHouse’s calendar of 500 annual events featured programs curated by artists, or was created by social service organizations or other community specific entities that addressed particular cultural concerns unique to their identity. These connections to community specific or ethnically located organizations positioned the organization to be of service to one of the most diverse populations in the country. HotHouse had, through its breadth of programming and outreach to diverse communities been able to attract racially and economically diverse audiences who looked to the facility as a community resource. By 2006, HotHouse had hosted over 6,000 programs and had served more than half a million customers. For this groundbreaking work, HotHouse has garnered numerous “Best of Chicago” awards and the New York Times has written: Few clubs anywhere offer a wider range of first-rate world music, from wildly vibrant Afro-pop to avant-garde jazz, than HotHouse.
Critically acclaimed for initiating remarkable festivals and international cultural exchanges; examples of the more intricate endeavors HotHouse successfully realized would include the Women of the New Jazz Festival (1991, 2001, and 2004), The Jazz en Clavé Festivals (2004-2006), WPA 2.0, a Brand New Deal (2011-2013), This Land is Our Land – a centennial celebration of Woody Guthrie (2012), the Son Jarocho International Exchange Project (2013-2014), and the Old and New Dreams Festivals (2015, 2016). This risk taking vanguard work and considerable long-term investment in building global networks undertaken by HotHouse over thirty years continues to serve the organization in its current capacity. Since 2010 when the organization returned to presenting programs (without its own venue) around the region, it has curated some 200 individual events for more than 5,000 attendees.